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Big News!

Graves of Arthur Kill”  will make its World Premiere on Wednesday, May 7 at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. The 32 minute documentary – directed by Will Van Dorp, aka Tugster – will be one of 5 short films shown on Opening Night.

There will be a prescreening reception which starts at 7 p.m. and the films begin at 8 p.m. Click here for tickets.

Brooklyn Heights Cinema
70 Henry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Subway: A/C to High Street or 2/3 to Clark Street


World Premiere

Documentary, 32 min. USA
Directed by Will Van Dorp

Though it’s been described as an “accidental museum,” the graveyard of ships at New York City’s southernmost point isn’t on any tourism maps. The site is owned by a metal recycling company and visitors are turned away. But this bone yard begs for attention. Rusty tugboats sit lopsided in its muddy waters. Rotting wooden skeletons of old barges dot the shoreline. Collectively, these crumbling vessels seem like haunting maritime sculptures in a massive art installation.

Will Van Dorp is a photographer, author and English professor at Union County College in Elizabeth, N.J. He is also a knowledgeable observer of what he calls New York City’s “sixth borough,” the waters in and around the Port of New York. He chronicles much that happens in these waters in his “Tugster” blog, which was featured in a 2011 New York Times profile.


Historic schooner Sherman Zwicker will be spending some time here in NY harbor over the summer as reported by Tribeca Citizen. The historic fishing vessel turned floating museum was once part of a fleet of hundreds of large wooden schooners that fished the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Historic schooner Sherman Zwicker. Photo courtesy Grand Banks Schooner Museum.

Grand Banks Schooner Foundation is bringing the last original saltbank fishing vessel to Tribeca’s Pier 25 for a summer of exhibitions, lectures and … libations alfesco on the Hudson River.

The 142 foot long schooner will host a raw bar on deck called Grand Banks run by Mark Firth of Brooklyn’s Diner and Marlow & Sons, that will serve local oysters and other small delectables.

Image via Tribeca Citizen

Community Board 1 has given their liquor license application the nod and the Hudson River Park Trust is finalizing the details. If all goes according to schedule, the wooden schooner will be open June 1st for cocktails and bluepoints on the Hudson. Read more at Tribeca Citizen here…

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee, hat tip to Bonnie Frogma for the intel


Photo via USS Slater facebook page

Many of us have been waiting for the arrival of the USS Slater for many months. Captain Maggie Flanagan, marine educator and WHC steering committee member, first told me about her impending visit to Caddell’s at WHC’s end-of-the-year meeting, back in December.

Ice and snow bound. Photo via USS Slater facebook page

The WWII destroyer escort was supposed to make the trip in January, but the frozen grip of one of the coldest winters in recent years pushed that back to February… and then March… [Slater Signals]

This dry-dock project is being completely funded by private donations – There is no government or public money involved. You can help! Go to and hit the “Donate” button! Photo vis USS Slater fb page.

Now with the ice safely melted, the USS Slater will be making her way down the Hudson River from Albany to Staten Island today!

The grand, grey lady will be escorted by two tugboats and the journey downriver is expected to take 12+ hours all told.

Tug Margot. Photo via

Ed Zajkowski posted this tip for tracking the warships journey online on USS Slater’s facebook page. Slater has no transponder, so to follow her progress down the Hudson River, go to – filter out all vessels except TUGS, and type in the name “MARGOT”. Her transponder should be active Sunday AM.

I just got word from John Skelson that the transport is underway! Hopefully she reaches the KVK before darkness falls! It’s a gorgeous day, perfect ship spotting weather! I hope you all share your photos with us in WHC’s flickr photo pool – I can’t wait to see them!

Underway! Photo via USS Slater facebook page

Did you know? The USS Slater’s dry-dock repair project is being completely funded by donations from folks like you! You can help by donating here.

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee, hat tips to Capt. Maggie Flanagan, John Skelson, John McCluskey and Will Van Dorp for all their help with research and intel.


The Wilhelm Baum is now floating after being brought out of the water. Photo courtesy of Ed Appleyard via The Kalamazoo Gazette

The Wilhelm Baum tugboat that sunk last month while at her home dock behind the Michigan Maritime Museum, has been raised from the icy depths of the Black River.

What caused the Wilhelm Baum to sink last month remains unknown. Photo courtesy of Paul VandenBosch via The Kalamazoo Gazette

As reported by The Kalamazoo Gazette, the tugboat was lifted by a crane, several barges and pusher boats. Sheral Bradley, who owns the Wilhelm Baum with her husband Jim, said it took three days to remove the vessel from river in South Haven. It’s not known what caused the tugboat to sink.

The historic tugboat Wilhelm Baum submerged. Photo courtesy of Paul VandenBosch via The Kalamazoo Gazette

“We can’t find a reason for why it sank,” Bradley said. “There were no holes in the hull. It is able to float now.”

Bradley said the boat suffered some damage from being in the water, mostly to the electronics inside. “But it’s repairable,” Bradley said.

Jim and Sheral Bradley on the Wilhelm Baum’s stern deck. MLive file photo via The Kalamazoo Gazette

The Wilhelm Baum was built in 1923 as an Army Corps of Engineers tugboat. In 2003 it was given a permanent spot at the Michigan Maritime Museum docks on the Black River. Read more at The Kalamazoo Gazette here…

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee


If  you’ve ever been down to Red Hook, you couldn’t have missed seeing the Lehigh Valley No. 79 Barge – in all her gorgeous boxy, redness moored at her dock near Fairway. Run by David Sharp, (just look for the smiley-est guy on the waterfront) the historic barge is the home of The Waterfront Museum.

Did you know that grand old LV No. 79 celebrates her 100th Birthday this year? I think it’s time for a party!

Check out this post reblogged from Red HookWaterfront blog:


When you visit the Red Hook waterfront, one of the first things you’ll notice is a bright red historic barge docked at Pier 44, near the Fairway Supermarket at the Red Hook Stores building. That’s where The Waterfront Museum is found, a non-profit 501(c)3 tax-exempt charitable organization run by David Sharps.

Sharps, after working as a street performer and serving long stints on cruise ships, found himself studying theatrical movement in Paris. While there, he lived on a houseboat on the Seine. When he returned to New York, David wanted to continue living on a boat, so a tugboat captain introduced him to the Lehigh Valley No. 79 Barge.


When Sharps took possession of the historic barge, which cost him $1, it had 300 tons of mud in its hold and was grounded in New Jersey. The Lehigh Valley was restored to seaworthy condition after seven years of restoration and hard work. Sharps found his way to Red Hook via a 1992 conference organized by the legendary Pete Seeger, where Sharps met Michael Mann. Mann suggested Red Hook, Brooklyn, as a home for the Lehigh Valley, and suggested he get in touch with Greg O’Connell.

The Waterfront Museum arrived in Red Hook back in 1994, and we at The O’Connell Organization won’t let him leave. We love how it hearkens back to the old days of Red Hook’s working waterfront.


At Pier 44, David Sharps and The Waterfront Museum found its home port, allowing him to focus on programming and the upkeep of the historic vessel. The following history of the barge comes directly from The Waterfront Museum, and its timeline seems to mirror the maritime history of Red Hook itself:

The Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge No. 79, built in Perth Amboy, NJ in 1914, is the only wooden covered barge of its kind left over from “The Lighterage Era (1860-1960) – a period of transportation and commerce history when food and commercial goods were transported across the river by Tug and Barge prior to today’s bridges, tunnels, highways, trucks and The Containerization Era.” At one time there were over 5,000 non-self propelled barges similar to her. Railroad companies maintained large fleets of barges to bring goods between railroad terminals, across and along the Hudson River for consumer use, and for shipment overseas. Today, she is the only surviving example afloat.

The museum’s open hours are Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. , though groups can visit on other days by appointment. There are also special showboat performances, including theater, dance, puppetry, and even circus acts, performed by Sharps and his friends.


Be sure to check out their website for more information, and sign up for their mailing list to stay in the loop on all the low-cost and highly entertaining programs they offer.

Reblogged from Red HookWaterfront blog, forward by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee

Have you read Rick Spilman’s novel Hell Around The Horn?

It’s a thriller that tells of the captivating story about a young ship’s captain and his family who sets sail on Lady Rebecca – a 1905 windjammer, from Wales bound for Chile, by way of Cape Horn in the Age of Sail. Based on an actual voyage, and written with historical accuracy, Rick draws you into the world of whipping westerly winds, mutiny and survival on the high seas. Read tugster’s review here.



Hell Around the Horn is a nautical thriller set in the last days of the great age of sail. In 1905, a young ship’s captain and his family set sail on the windjammer, Lady Rebecca, from Cardiff, Wales with a cargo of coal bound for Chile, by way of Cape Horn. Before they reach the Southern Ocean, the cargo catches fire, the mate threatens mutiny and one of the crew may be going mad, yet the greatest challenge will prove to be surviving the vicious westerly winds and mountainous seas of the worst Cape Horn winter in memory. Based on an actual voyage, Hell Around the Horn is a story of survival and the human spirit against overwhelming odds.


Rick Spilman is an acclaimed maritime author and Old Salt Blogger. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, I suggest you click-through to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It’s available as an ebook for Kindle, and in paperback.

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee, hat tip Robert Weisbrod Chair, Working Harbor Committee


John Skelson shared this story with me the other day on facebook, about a sport I had no idea existed having hailed from warmer climes – Ice Yachting.

Rocket, an iceboat originally built in the 1800s, sails on the Hudson after a massive restoration. Photo by Bryan Thomas for The New York Times

Of course, why wouldn’t there be ice yachting? We sail on roads and sand, and even through the air, of course we would want to skim frozen waterways in full sail.

The weekend turned into an impromptu iceboat summit when other iceboat captains arrived to sail their boats. Photo by Bryan Thomas for The New York Times

Last weekend, a group of iceboaters celebrated the polar vortex temperatures on the frozen Hudson River.

As reported by The New York Times, The North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club and the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club revived an old rivalry, playing out for the first time in more than a decade. The wooden 1880′s-era ice boat, Rocket would race the Jack Frost, an iceboat built in 1892.

Iceboats sail into the sunset. Photo by Bryan Thomas for The New York Times

The New York Times: Word spread of the two boats meeting, and the weekend became an iceboat summit.

“This is a very unique, unusual situation,” said John Vargo, a former commodore of the Hudson club who was on the ice wearing an entire skinned coyote on his head, fastened by the forepaws tied under his chin.

Icy sailing on the Jack Frost. Photo by Bryan Thomas for The New York Times

“It’s once in a lifetime.” He scanned the dozens of wooden vessels, which date back more than a century, many of them with faded, old sails. “I’ve never seen this many iceboats together on the Hudson, and I’ve been coming here 70 years,” said Mr. Vargo, 78.

Read more about the exciting day at The New York Times and see the photo gallery at the New York Daily News.

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee hat tip John Skelson

The Willhelm Baum. Photo via the Michigan Maritime Museum’s facebook page

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports the Wilhelm Baum, 1923 as an Army Corps of Engineers tugboat, sank last Sunday while tied-up at her permanent dock at the Michigan Maritime Museum.

Willhelm Baum submerged under the icy water. Photo via the Michigan Maritime Museum’s facebook page

Thankfully, no one was aboard the vessel when it sank to the bottom of the Black River in South Haven. Officials have been notified and will conduct an investigation to find out what caused the boat to sink.

Harbormaster Paul VandenBosch who shot this video of the sunken tug, told the Kalamazoo Gazzette the 91-year old tugboat may not be able to be raised until the Spring.

Read more at the Kalamazoo Gazette here and here

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee

The National Transportation and Safety Board has released their official report on the sinking of the tall ship Bounty during Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012. With all the sad details of Bounty’s last sail we have heard from rescuers and rescued, the findings come as no surprise.

HMS Bounty with full sails. Photo: Dan Kasberger via wikipedia

The NTSB 16-page report details the struggles of the inexperienced crew with failing ship engines and bilge pumps in hurricane-fueled seas – and states the “reckless decision to sail into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy” was a voyage that, “should never have been attempted.”

Download the full 16-page report here (pdf)

HMS Bounty. Photo: Ebyabe via wikipedia


NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs

Captain’s decision to sail into the path of a hurricane caused the tall ship Bounty to sink off Atlantic coast

February 10

A captain’s “reckless decision to sail into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy” was the probable cause of the sinking of a ship off the North Carolina coast in October 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released today. The captain and one crewmember died in the accident. Three other crewmembers were seriously injured.

On the evening of October 25, 2012, a day after a closely watched developing storm had reached hurricane strength, the 108-foot-long tall wooden ship, the Bounty, set sail from New London, Conn., for St. Petersburg, Fla., into the forecasted path of Superstorm Sandy. The 52-year-old vessel, a replica of the original 18th Century British Admiralty ship of the same name, was built for MGM Studios for the 1962 movie, “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

HMS Bounty replica sinking during hurricane Sandy, 29 October 2012. Photo: US Coast Guard via wikipedia

Prior to setting off from New London, some of the crewmembers had expressed their concerns to the captain that sailing into a severe storm could put all of them and the ship at risk. The captain assured the crew that the Bounty could handle the rough seas and that the voyage would be a success. Just a month earlier, in an interview with a Maine TV station, the captain said that the Bounty “chased hurricanes,” and by getting close to the eye of the storm, sailors could use hurricane winds to their advantage.

The 16-page report details how a mostly inexperienced crew – some injured from falls, others seasick and fatigued from the constant thrashing of 30-foot seas – struggled for many hours to keep the ships engines running and bilge pumps operating so the seawater filling the vessel would not overtake it.

Read more from the NTSB Press Release here…

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee, hat tip to Capt. John Doswell, Executive Director, Working Harbor Committee

Sorry for my lateness! I’m dealing with intermittent loss of internet connection this morning, so I have a reblog for you from Mitch Waxman, WHC’s official photographer, from his blog The Newtown Pentacle.

A look back at a much warmer day, coasting along the Newtown Creek.

Historic Tug at Newtown Creek

Vintage Tugboat at Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

A rare opportunity to ride up the Newtown Creek was recently enjoyed by your humble narrator, and on my journey up that maligned cataract I spotted an artifact of New York Harbor’s glorious past sneaking past Hunters Point.


Blue-claw crabs, bluefish, weakfish, striped bass, and other species inhabit the creek, and fishing and crabbing for human consumption occurs [Ref. 7, pp. 2, 5; 8, p. 11; 21, p. 13; 22, pp. 1-2; 24, p. 143; 52, p. 93; 68, p. 3; 69, p. 1]. Subsistence fishing has been observed in Newtown Creek at Dutch Kills, and crabbing for consumption has been observed at the end of Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn [Ref. 7, p. 5; 21, p. 13; 22, pp. 1-2; 68, p. 3; 69, p. 1]. These locations are both within the zone of contamination for the Newtown Creek site [Figure 2 of this HRS documentation record]. Therefore, Actual Contamination is documented, and the target fishery is evaluated for Actual Human Food Chain Contamination.

the W O Decker at Newtown Creek - photo by Mitch Waxman

Wooden hulled, its spitting steam boilers have long been replaced by modern diesel engines, this little (52 feet long) tugboat is the W O Decker.

also from

Beginning in the late 1800s and continuing into the 1930s, Newtown Creek was widened, deepened, and lined with bulkheads to accommodate the growing traffic, leading to the destruction of all its freshwater sources [Ref. 8, p. 10; 12,

p. 52]. During World War II, the government commandeered factories along the creek to make military equipment, such as a factory that made aluminum for fighter planes [Ref. 11, p. 14]. At that time, Newtown Creek was the busiest industrial port in the Northeast, with tanker traffic lining its length [Ref. 7, p. 1; 11, p. 13]. The national highway system built after the war took business away from the nation’s waterways, leading to a rapid decline in the level of industry along Newtown Creek [Ref. 7, pp. 1-2].

the W O Decker passing by the “Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center” - photo by Mitch Waxman

A “historic place” the Decker was originally called the Russell 1 when it was built in 1930 for the Newtown Creek Towing Company, who were specialists in berthing and towing heavy cargo along the crowded and narrow waterway.


The Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) started in the late 1980s as an innovative intersection of two interests: reclaiming derelict factories in North Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood and sustaining industry and manufacturing in New York City. The organization formally incorporated in 1992.

From its initial purchase and redevelopment of a large facility at 1155 Manhattan Avenue for use by light manufacturers and artisans, GMDC has since expanded and today is the only nonprofit industrial developer in New York City. The organization acquires, develops, and manages industrial real estate that provides small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises with affordable, flexible production space.

In the shot above, The Decker is passing the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Facility in Greenpoint, Brooklyn - photo by Mitch Waxman

The Decker is currently a high end tour vessel, operated by and out of the South Street Seaport in Manhattan.


The wooden tugboat W.O. Decker was built in Long Island City, Queens in 1930 for the Newtown Creek Towing Company, a firm specializing in berthing ships and barges in the creek that separates Brooklyn and Queens. Originally called the Russell I for the towing company’s owners, she was renamed the W.O. Decker in 1946 after being sold to the Decker family’s Staten Island tugboat firm.

The shield wall of the Shining City, framed by Long Island City on the right and industrial Brooklyn on the left with the Pulaski Bridge just at Horizon - photo by Mitch Waxman

The vessel I was aboard continued on toward the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, but the Decker turned in the narrow part of the Newtown Creek near the confluence of its tributaries Whale Creek and Dutch Kills.

Check out this 1896 article at the NYTimes, which actually interviews the manager of Newtown Creek Towing Company, John Russell, for whom the Decker was originally named.

by Mitch Waxman, The Newtown Pentacle for Working Harbor Committee

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